Europe’s future is looking greener, says Toshiba president
Takashi Nagasawa, company president of Toshiba Electronics Europe, says that electronics for the smart grid and renewable energy sources will be key drivers for the European electronics industry.
Growing populations, rising fuel costs, diminishing natural resources and the need to minimise greenhouse gases mean that cutting energy use and finding alternative energy sources are vital to a sustainable future.
While an increased reliance on electronics contributes to our demand for energy, electronics also holds the key to better energy management and meeting renewable energy targets. Which is why developments for the smart grid and innovative implementations for greener energy sources are key drivers for the European electronics sector.
Take smart metering. A basic meter might display real-time energy use, provide remote collection of usage and billing data and alert consumers to peak and low-cost periods, while more sophisticated commercial and industrial meters with ‘gateway’ capabilities add facilities for remote switch on, shut off and control of appliances via the web.
At the heart of all of these meters are embedded systems that must deliver the functionality – a metrology design that meets legal obligations for accuracy to within 0.1% for billing; integration of LAN and WAN connectivity; or management of a display – while operating so efficiently that benefits are not outweighed by increased meter energy consumption.
Such meters represent a significant opportunity for Europe’s electronic sector, not least in the UK and Germany where smart meter penetration in 2011 was just 5%.
And capitalising on these opportunities will be helped by new generations of microcontrollers that combine ultra-low-power, minimal code footprint ARM Cortex-M0 cores with integrated functions such as metrology and active power calculation optimised to smart meter requirements.
When it comes to renewable energy, estimates by Eurostat indicate that 12.4% of overall EU energy currently comes from renewable sources. And with an EU target of 20% by 2020, clearly there are some big opportunities in this sector.
Smart application of electronics in areas ranging from solar power PV inverters to DC-DC conversion in wind turbines will be essential. What’s more, deriving energy from renewable sources is also driving demands for innovative energy storage solutions that can ‘stabilise’ a smart grid increasingly reliant on fluctuating energy input.
Toshiba is involved in various European so-called “smart community” projects. In Lyon, for example, the company has been commissioned to provide photovoltaic systems and other technologies.
Other projects that Toshiba is involved in include the Isle of Wight’s “Eco Island” initiative, which aims to make the island energy self-sufficient by 2020, and a ‘smart home’ project in Bristol focusing on smart energy, smart transport and smart data.